barrel tour

Looking Forward: The 2015 Barrel Tour


Here in Eugene we are so lucky to have some fabulous wineries nearby. It is just a short drive to some fantastic wine! Each June, the Southern Willamette Wineries Association hosts a Barrel Tour with three amazing routes: Urban, Northern, and Southern. Each route features 5 wineries, and will have real barrel tastings. This is an event that you cannot miss!

(Photo Credit: Sheila Sund)


All of these wineries are a close driving distance, but let their deluxe charter bus provided do all the work so you can sit back and relax. Soak in the beautiful views, taste some fabulous food, and of course, sip on some delicious wine. Check out the amazing line up for this year:


June 6th – Urban Tour

Eugene Wine Cellars

Capitello Wines

J.Scott Cellars/Noble Estate Winery

Oregon Wine Lab

Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company


June 13th – Northern Tour

Bennett Vineyards & Wine Company

Brigadoon Wine Company

Lavelle Vineyards

High Pass Winery

Pfeiffer Vineyards


June 20th – Southern Tour

Domaine Meriwether Winery

Silvan Ridge Winery

Saginaw Vineyard

Chateau Lorane

Iris Vineyards

The gorgeous view at Lavelle Vineyards

Picking just one of these routes would be hard, so why not check them all out? What a great opportunity to try the wide variety of wines that are being produced right here in the Southern Willamette Valley. Each of these producers have their own unique style, and I cannot wait to get my hands on some of their new releases.

2014-10-07 10.30.03
Barrels and Barrels and Barrels at J.Scott Cellars

It may seem like June is far off – but it’ll be sneaking up on us in no time! Tickets are available online at the Southern Willamette Wineries Association site. For more information contact: [email protected]



Heart Of Willamette Wineries Barrel Tour


On February 7th there is a very special event coming up – the 5th Annual Heart of Willamette Wineries Barrel Tour. With this event you get to travel to four different wineries: Namaste Vineyards, Treos Wine, Emerson Vineyards, and Benton-Lane Winery. All of the wineries will have 3 wine selections and delicious bites paired with them. Tickets go for $75 a person and each person gets a complimentary wine glass and transportation. Don’t delay on this too much, tickets sell out fast. Cheers!


Heart of Willamette Valley 4th Annual Barrel Tour: Feb. 15


On Saturday, February 15, the Heart of Willamette Winery Association is hosting its 4th Annual Barrel Tour.

Sit back and relax on a guided bus tour and taste great wines from the Heart of the Willamette Valley.  This year, six wineries will be showing off their wines paired with the winery’s favorite appetizers.  Learn from the winemakers how the nectar of the gods is made.

Brigadoon in snow
Brigadoon’s tasting room looking very cozy covered in snow | Brigadoon Facebook page

Participating wineries include:
Spindrift Cellars, Airlie, Benton-Lane, Brigadoon, Emerson Vineyards & 3 Fools.

Take advantage of this excellent offer by stopping at any Heart of Willamette winery to purchase passes or buy them on line at

Winery Tour passes are $75 per person which includes a souvenir wine glass, bag of local snack items, and transportation.

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Check in at 9:45 AM

Benton County Fairgrounds
110 SW 53rd
Corvallis, OR 97333

The tour includes visits to 6 local wineries at 5 locations.  Each winery will serve 3 wine selections paired with the winery’s favorite appetizers.  Guided tour transportation from Corvallis will be by charter bus and will highlight the area and vineyards.

2011 Barrel Tour: Pouring Rain & Pinot’s


2011 Barrel Tour

On Saturday, June 18th, two of the things that the South Willamette Valley is well known for were literally pouring: the rain and the Pinot’s.

Shortly after 9:00a.m., and a quick stop at The Washburne Café for my favorite Lavender Latte, I pulled into a parking space at Valley River Center near the arriving luxury coaches. It was Saturday, June 18th, and I was stoked for the days’ adventures that lie ahead for my friend and me on the 2011 South Willamette Wineries Barrel Tour. It was raining, and although I was prepared with a rain coat and hood, I hurried under the check-in tent amongst the other wine lovers huddling to keep dry.  When my friend arrived, we were told we were on bus #4, so we headed in its direction.  There were 4 buses total, and each bus would head in a different direction towards one of the four wineries that were scheduled on our tour. The four wineries included – Benton-Lane, Capitello, Sarver, and Sweet Cheeks.

Capitello Wines

Our bus filled up quickly, and at 10:00 a.m. we headed towards our first winery for the day, Capitello Wines. Although Capitello is considered one of the South Willamette’s “wineries without walls”, Ray Walsh, of Capitello Wines, would be showcasing his wines at Domaine Meriwether’s facilities in Veneta. Originally from New Zealand, where he studied enology, Ray worked at King Estate from 1993-1999, where he eventually became Cellar Master and was well known for mastering the making of Pinot Gris. He left King Estate and started to make his own wines under the Capitello label so he would be able to spend more time with his son, Desmond, who is also his business partner. Upon our buses arrival at the winery, we were greeted by Ray’s fiancé, Jennifer, who gave us a warm welcome and invited us to come in to meet Ray and try three of the Capitello wines: the 2010 Walnut Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, a barrel sample of the ’09 Pinot Noir, and the ’09 Dolcino Oregon Gewurztraminer. We were given wine glasses that we would keep for the remainder of the tour, and they were quickly filled with a sample of the Sauvignon Blanc. Restaurant June was catering the food that would be paired with each of the three wines. Delicious Asian Spring Rolls filled with crisp fresh vegetables paired perfectly with the melon and stone fruit flavors of the Sauvignon Blanc.

Winemaker Ray Walsh

As Ray stood on a box of wine to give us a little history on Capitello wines, we sipped and munched our way through the next two pairings of the barrel sample of Pinot Noir with Smoked Salmon Mousse en Croute with Herb Garnish and the Dolcino with assorted aged cheeses and crackers. After his presentation, Ray mingled with the guests while other Capitello wines were being sampled, including his two wines from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, a Pinot Noir and a Sauvignon Blanc, along with a Willamette Valley Pinot Gris. The Capitello Pinot Gris is one of my favorites, and I decided to purchase several bottles of the Pinot Gris and the Walnut Ridge Sauvignon Blanc – the perfect summer duo for my upcoming camping trips.

As we left Capitello, the grey cloud covered skies continued to drop its rain on the windshield of the bus, but no one seemed to notice. We conversed with the couple next to us about the impressive Capitello Pinot’s, and we all took note that each of the four wineries would be pouring either a Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir – or both.  Our next destination was Benton-Lane Winery located in Monroe. Benton-Lane is home to three of the top 100 wines of the world. Vice President, Lorne Mews, greeted us and escorted us to their covered outdoor crush pad so we could get a view of the vineyards and property while he explained how the once sheep ranch called, Sunnymount, became the world renowned Benton-Lane Winery. Owners of Benton-Lane, Steve and Carol Girard, had previously owned a vineyard in Napa, but their passion for Pinot Noir brought them north to the Willamette Valley. After months of looking at numerous properties, Steve and Carol knew right away that because of Sunnymounts location in the foothills of the coastal range on the west side of the valley, with hills sloping east by southeast, that it was perfectly situated for planting Pinot Noir grapes. The property is located in both Benton and Lane counties with acres of property on each side, so they aptly named the winery Benton-Lane. Once inside the winery, we tasted the Benton-Lane 2010 Pinot Gris, which was delicious paired with the Gourmet Vegetarian Bruschetta.

Gourmet Vegetarian Bruschetta

The grapes used for their Pinot Gris were carefully selected from various Willamette Valley vineyards, and along with the pear and apple aromas, there was honeysuckle and melon on the palate.  The long lasting finish was carried over as we continued through the winery to the barrel room. As Lorne talked about the award winning Pinot Noir’s that are produced at Benton-Lane, we received a sample of the ’09 Estate Pinot Noir along with Alder Smoked Salmon with Sauce. A good Pinot Noir is always stellar with salmon, and this pairing was out of this world delicious. Benton-Lane’s Estate Pinot Noir is complex, yet silky smooth, with earthy aromas of cherries and blackberries. The ripe strawberry, blueberry and currant flavors explode in your mouth, and I knew right away that this young wine will be enjoyed for years to come.

Lorne Mews pours Pinot Noir barrel samples

The third pairing was a barrel sample of the 2010 Estate Pinot Noir along with Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza, which was freshly baked in the outdoor firewood oven. Again, a perfect pairing with a superior Pinot Noir, and I’m looking forward to its release. For about 5 minutes, the rain stopped right before our departure, and everyone flocked to the winery’s outdoor patio with a view while sipping Benton-Lane’s first-rate wines.

Our third destination was Sarver Winery in Eugene. Sarver has one of the most spectacular views of the Cascade Range, and on a clear day, you can see the snow capped mountains of Three Sisters. Chris and Erin Sarver moved to Eugene from a small town in Michigan. They shared a passion for wine, so this mutual passion led them to their search for the perfect vineyard in Oregon. Although Chris and Erin didn’t know anyone in Oregon, they came out to take a look at Elhanan Vineyards and they immediately called it home.

Erin Sarver gives us a warm welcome

Elhanan Vineyards was originally established by the McKinney’s in 1984 and is home to some of the Willamette Valley’s first premium Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir plantings. In 2008, Chris and Erin packed up their belongings along with their then newborn, Eve, and headed west to establish Sarver Winery at Elhanan Vineyard. For the next couple years, they tended the vineyard and turned the woodshop into the gorgeous tasting room that looks out over the vineyards. Their grand opening was in August of 2010, and they offer an extensive line of fabulous wines.

Sarver Wines ready for sampling

For the barrel tour, we sampled the ’09 Estate Pinot Gris, 2010 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, and the ’09 Estate Pinot Noir Select. Their crisp, light and refreshing stainless steel aged Estate Pinot Gris was paired with savory Spiral-Wrapped Pancetta Asparagus.  Their 2010 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, which has aromas of watermelon and fresh strawberries, is light and perfect for bright sunny days. Even in the rain, it was ambrosial paired with the scrumptious Phyllo Gruyére Cups. In fact, I noticed a group of people standing out on the patio, in the rain, drinking the Pinot Noir Rosé. Their ’09 Estate Pinot Noir Select was outstanding with aromas of dark cherries and spice. On the palate, there are flavors of berries, cinnamon, vanilla and oak. The Chocolate Pot de Créme, a traditional French custard served in a pot-shaped cup, was decadent with their Pinot Noir.

Sweet Cheeks winemaker Mark Nicholl with Syrah barrel samples


After filling up the empty slots of my 6-pack wine carrier with the Sarver Estate Pinot Noir, we headed out to our final destination, Sweet Cheeks Winery in Crow. Sweet Cheeks Winery overlooks the Briggs Hill Valley, and the views from the hilltop winery are simply breathtaking. The 50 year old building that now houses their beautiful tasting room was originally built in Junction City and was scheduled for destruction in 2003. Sweet Cheeks owner, Dan Smith, rescued the building, and had it reassembled at the top of the vineyards. As far as the name of the winery, so the story goes, from across the valley when looking at the sloping hills of the vineyard property, there’s a curious swell in the hills that looks similar to, well, `cheeks’, so the name Sweet Cheeks was born.

We arrived at the back of the winery and entered their fermentation room where our glasses were filled with samples of their ’09 Reserve Pinot Gris and paired with Crème Fraîche Stuffed Potatoes topped with Caviar. Sweet Cheeks Pinot Gris is not your typical Oregon Pinot Gris. It’s slightly coral colored because of having 24 hours of skin contact. It’s barrel fermented, and has a creamy mouth feel with oak and spice flavors and paired excellently with the saltiness of the caviar and creaminess of the fresh cream on the potatoes.

Fireside view of foggy Briggs Hill Valley

The second sample was of the 2010 Vintage Riesling, and this was paired with Riesling Macerated Strawberries and Champagne Sabayon in Phyllo Cups. This is a sweeter style Riesling with honeysuckle and peach notes and was truly mouthwatering with the macerated strawberries. After trying the Riesling we moved on into the barrel room where barrel samples of the ’09 Syrah were now filling our glasses. The Syrah was intense, with dark berry flavors of currants and blackberries. There was a hint of licorice and black pepper on the finish which was complimented by the food pairing of choice: House Smoked Pork Sliders. From the barrel room, we moved into the tasting room, which led to the covered patio and fire-pit tables that beckoned us to warm up fireside with a glass of wine…so we did just that.

The fog moved slowly along the valley floor, and the view was breathtaking even on a rainy, foggy day.

A toast to the 2011 Barrel Tour




As we boarded the bus to head back to Valley River Center, I heard a passenger say, “It may have been pouring rain all day, but the only thing I noticed was the delicious Pinot’s being poured in my glass.”

Julia – Writing About Eugene’s Wine Scene

Wine Down Eugene


Wine Bars & Wine Shops

[ad#Washburne – Interstitial]

Osteria Sfizio: Sun. Last Sunday Regional Italian Dinner based on cuisine and wine from Campania & Basilicata.

LaVelle Club Room at 5th Street Market: Tues. 5-7p ½ off glass pours for Tasty Tuesday Women’s Networking Group; Wed. 5-8p ½off glass pours for ladies; Thurs. 6-8p Live music with Jerry Zybach ; Fri. 6-8p live music by Gus Russell.

Marché Provisions: Fri. 5-7p Free wine tasting of 4 new wines weekly and 10% off those wines during the tasting.

Sundance Wine Cellars: Fri. 5-7p  themed Frugal Friday wine tasting with Mario; Sat. 5-7p featuring local and regional wineries. Last week was Patchwork Cellars, Opine, & 720 Cellars! Check their facebook page frequently for updates on events and tastings:

Broadway Wine Merchants: Fri. 5-7p Free wine tasting weekly, check their website for featured wines and which winemakers will be present

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Co.: Thu. 5-11p Live Rock by Dominic Valenti. June Art is “La FamiliaA mother/daughter exhibit featuring Karen and Mica Russo.

Ambrosia: Mon.-Fri. 4-6p Happy Hour $4.50 house wines. Check out their award winning wine list:

Café Zenon: Tues. 50% off bottles of wine; Mon-Fri. 5-6:30p $1 off glasses of wine and pints of beer. Find King Estate’s Domaine Pinot Gris here – ½ off on Tuesdays!! Their fabulous wine list:

The Washburne Café: Fri. & Sat. All day ~ $1 off all glasses of wine and all microbrews are just $4!

Café 440: Wed. Wine Flights for the month of June: White Flight-Italian Pinot Grigio’s. Red Flight-French Cote du Rhones. 3 pours for $10.50.

Mac’s at the Vet’s Club: Wed. 6-8p free wine tasting featuring a different Oregon winery every week! Wine, Jazz & Variety live with Gus Russell & Paul Biondi 6p-9p.

Agate Alley Laboratory: Now open Tue.-Sun. 5p-midnight~This is Agate Alley Bistro’s sister restaurant that just opened last week. It’s a must try and their wine list is one not to miss

Capella Market: Sat. 4-6p Wine Tasting (house pour)

Market of Choice: Featured wine 6/17-6/30 Christian Vergier Macon-Villages Cuvée Eros – d a delicious, refreshing Chardonnay just $12.99 a bottle

Café Soriah: Wed. Celebrate Wine Wednesdays! All day ½ off bottles of wine, including notable names such as: BrickHouse, Capitello, King Estate, Broadley! Outdoor seating

Café Lucky Noodle: Tue. Wine Night – all bottles 35% off Excellent wine list:

Sam’s Place Tavern: great wine list, 21 glass pours, all under $7! Wine list includes some excellent Oregon wines. Check it out at

Sundance Wine Cellars: Sat. 5-7p J Scott Wine Cellars wine tasting with winemaker Jonathan Scott Oberlander.

Granary Wine Bar: Wed. all day $5 glass pour of house white or red

Wineries & Vineyards

[ad#BarrelTour – Interstitial]

2011 Barrel Tour: Sat. 9:30a-5p $60 per person. Travel in a deluxe charter bus touring 4 wineries. Each winery will serve three wine selections paired with an appetizer.  An educational component will be provided by each of the wineries. June 25th tour visits Domaine Meriwether, Pfeiffer Vineyards, LaVelle Vineyards & High Pass Winery. Call 541-221-8592 to check availability and purchase tickets.

Sarver Winery: Open 12-5p Mon.-Thur. & 12-8p Fri.- Sun. Excellent wines, great prices, gracious hosts and an unparalleled view.

Silvan Ridge Winery: Fri. 6:30-8:30p Kathy Marshall & Laura Golden take the stage for an evening of folk and Americana music. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and friends for music wine & great food! No cover.

Saginaw Vineyards: Fri. 6-9p Friday Night Live 2011 presents “The Annie Rhoades Band”. No cover charge.  80247 Delight Valley School Rd, Cottage Grove.  15 minutes south of Eugene at exit 176 off the I-5.  541-942-1364 visit:

Sweet Cheeks Winery: Fri. 6-9p Twilight Tasting, wine & cheese pairing with Oregon-made artisan cheeses, live music with Jennifer Sennett; Sun. noon-6p Mimosa Sunday, live music on the patio, bring your own brunch

Pfeiffer Vineyards: Open DAILY 11a-5p; Fri. & Sat. 11a-9p! Order a glass (or bottle) of wine and enjoy their new beautiful Water Garden -4 terraced ponds and waterfalls set in the vineyard~gorgeous!

LaVelle Vineyards Winery in Elmira: Fri. 5-9p Friday Night Flights-free flight of wine samplings, live music with Jackie & Jason Cowsill, and food offered by DEVOUR Gourmet Food Cart. Highly suggested Pinot Noir: Matthew’s Reserve!

Noble Estate: Open 7 days a week noon-5p.Tasting room with beautiful new patio and gorgeous view now open!!

Iris Vineyards: Mon.-Fri. 11a-3p Stop by their state of the art winery & tasting room in Cottage Grove. $3 tasting fee includes free wine glass and cheese and crackers. 541-942-5993

Chateau Lorane: Now open 7 days a week 12-5p Try some of their rare and distinguished wines: Baco Noir, Huxelrebe, Leon Millot, and Melon de Bourgogne. The new Entourage Red Blend is a winner!

Save the Date or Reserve Now

[ad#LaVelle – Interstitial]

Saginaw Vineyards: Fri. July 1st 6:30-8:30p “Tony Rae & Common Ground” No cover charge.  80247 Delight Valley School Rd, Cottage Grove.  15 minutes south of Eugene at exit 176 off the I-5.  541-942-1364 visit:

Art & The Vineyard: July 2-4. Wine, Food, Art, Music – all at Alton Baker Park.

Ambrosia: July 6th 5:30-7p – First Wednesday Wine Tasting. Try about 10 wines that have something in common along with special appetizer plates to pair with the wine. $15 per person

King Estate: July 29th 6-9p Tower Club Summer BBQ at King Estate’s Vineyard Pavilion. Become a Tower Club Member to experience KE’s ultimate events!


Julia for EDN – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene

Don’t Miss The Bus! 2011 Barrel Tour

Time capsules

We’re getting closer and closer to one of my favorite local wine events of the year: The 2011 Barrel Tour. This year’s line-up of fantastic wineries has got me thinking I may need to go on more than just one tour. Highly recommended and tons of fun, a Barrel Tour is an all-inclusive tour that gives wine lovers an inside look at the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country. Traveling on a luxury charter bus, meeting the winemakers, and tasting wine directly from a barrel are just of a few of the many reasons why I love these tours.

Entrance to Saginaw's 1905 red barn tasting room

Last year, a friend of mine and I chose a barrel tour that included Saginaw Vineyard, Iris Vineyards, King Estate Winery, and Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company.  We met mid-morning in the parking lot at Valley River Center, where 3 coaches were waiting to be filled with people that we quickly learned were not only from Oregon, but some of these wine lovers had come from as far as New Jersey and Florida-strictly for this particular barrel tour. After filling all three buses, our bus headed south towards Cottage Grove to Saginaw Vineyards while the other two buses headed to different wineries; therefore, our visits to the wineries would be limited to just one bus at a time. Limiting the amount of people at each stop allows for more time to be spent on sipping, mingling, and learning about the vineyards and wine-making process from the winemakers and owners.

View of the red barn at Saginaw Vineyards

Saginaw Vineyards tasting room is located inside a rustic yet beautiful turn-of-the-century red barn, and the owners paired each of their delicious wines with an appetizer made specifically for the wine being tasted. Just outside the barn, there was plenty of outdoor seating where everyone could enjoy their wine and take in the views of the serene countryside.

We sat with a Floridian couple and learned that they fly across the country each year to attend Oregon barrel tours. We all agreed that one of the nicest benefits of the South Willamette Valley Barrel Tours is that each of the wineries on the tour includes an educational component in addition to the sampling of their premium wines. The couple from Florida had gone on previous tours, and mentioned that Doug LaVelle of LaVelle Vineyards had actually taken them out into the vineyard to see and touch the vines and budding grapes.

Iris vineyards state-of-the-art winery

Our next stop was Iris Vineyards tasting room and winery located in Creswell. The general manager greeted each person as we stepped off the bus, and then lead us into their state of the art winery where we had samples of their future Pinot Noir, straight out of the barrel, and all of their delicious current and past releases.We learned that the new winery was designed for small lot, hands-on production of high quality wine, which was definitely showcased in the wines we were sampling. They had special barrel tour pricing, another reason why I love barrel tours, so we were able to stock up on some of their stellar Barrel-Free Chardonnay and cellar worthy Pinot Noir.

King Estate Winery sits hilltop above the vineyards

After Iris Vineyards, we headed for the largest winery in Oregon: King Estate. The wine enthusiasts on the bus ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as we approached the architecturally opulent buildings that house their winery, tasting room, and gourmet restaurant. Upon our arrival, King Estate’s gracious hosts poured wine into our glasses and then escorted us into their underground barrel room where the temperature is perfect for aging wine in oak barrels.

King Estate's underground barrel room

We were then led into the fermentation wings where large stainless steel tanks were lined meticulously along the walls, and finally into a large room to check out their cutting-edge crush pad. After the tour, we took some time on the patio to take in the unparalleled view of the vineyards that sprawl out along the hills and the valley floor. Each wine we tried was paired perfectly with a delectable treat prepared by King Estate’s executive chef, Michael Landsberg.

Loads of Lavendar in full bloom at King Estate Winery

The last stop on the tour was Territorial Vineyards & Wine Company, which is located in an urban setting within Eugene’s funky and thriving Whiteaker neighborhood. The sampling of their wines took place inside their 12,000 square foot modern and innovative winery. There was plenty of delicious food to pair with their outstanding wines, and outdoor seating provided a comfortable place to sit and relax with a glass of wine before traveling back to Valley River Center to end the tour. On the drive back, we gathered email addresses and phone numbers of some of the fellow wine lovers that had become our friends after meeting only hours before, and we’re really looking forward to seeing some of them again this year.

Territorial's Winery & Tasting room in the Whiteaker neighborhood

The three South Willamette Valley Barrel Tours offered for 2011 are:

  • June 4th– King Estate Winery, Saginaw Vineyard, Chateau Lorane, Iris Vineyard
  • June 18th– Benton-Lane Winery, Capitello Wines, Sweet Cheeks Winery, Shadow Mountain Vineyards
  • June 25th – Domaine Meriwether, Pfeiffer Vineyards, LaVelle Vineyards, High Pass Winery
Outdoor seating at Territorial Vineyards & Wine Co.

With such a great line-up for 2011, and such memorable experiences from 2010, I’ll be booking myself on more than just one tour. If you haven’t been out to our regions wineries before, the barrel tours are a great way to see the breathtaking countryside that surrounds us while sampling the bounties of food and wine that are grown and produced locally, in addition to making new friends. I’ve visited all the wineries of the South Willamette Valley, but these fun-filled barrel tours will continue to bring me back each year.

Tickets are currently on sale through the South Willamette Wineries Association’s website:

You may also call  541-221-8592 to reserve your spot.



Julia – Writing about Eugene’s Wine Scene